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Theater of a Thousand Wonders
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Book description

The great many shrines of New Spain have become long-lived sites of shared devotion and contestation across social groups. They have provided a lasting sense of enchantment, of divine immanence in the present, and a hunger for epiphanies in daily life. This is a story of consolidation and growth during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, rather than one of rise and decline in the face of early stages of modernization. Based on research in a wide array of manuscript and printed primary sources, and informed by recent scholarship in art history, religious studies, anthropology, and history, this is the first comprehensive study of shrines and miraculous images in any part of early modern Latin America.


'The distillation of a lifetime of study, Theater of a Thousand Wonders tells a story of affection, veneration, petition and grace across the Mexican landscape in the colonial period. Careful, attentive, and reflective, William B. Taylor examines how shrines were founded, what made them succeed or fail, how they changed over time, and the material aspects of their miracle-workings images. His wise work finds universal patterns in the local and recalls the marvelous side of long-forgotten lives.'

William A. Christian Jr. - author of Local Religion in Sixteenth-Century Spain

'Theater of a Thousand Wonders is an erudite historical anatomy of miraculous images and shrines in colonial Mexico. Breathtaking in its scope, and based on meticulous and exhaustive research, this revelatory study will compel readers to rethink their understanding of religious devotion in colonial Mexico and of the hundreds of 'little Heavens on earth'. Taylor presents us with the story of a resilient and vital enchantment even in the face of the secularizing impulses of the Enlightenment and Bourbon reformism. It is a stunning achievement.'

Susan Deans-Smith - The University of Texas at Austin

'Theater of a Thousand Wonders is a remarkable work of scholarship. Bringing together decades of research on the saints, shrines, images and miracles of colonial New Spain, William Taylor not only offers a beautifully written panorama of the country’s religious geography, but also a thoughtful examination of the meanings of such places and events for the colony’s everyday Catholics. Embracing meditations on race, material culture, art, and the history of emotions, it is one of the great contemporary works of religious history to be mentioned in the same breath as Eamon Duffy’s The Stripping of the Altars.'

Benjamin Smith - The University of Warwick

'Theater of a Thousand Wonders is at once bold and ambitious, measured and thoughtful. Alert to the challenges of historical interpretation, Taylor tells his story of shrines and sacred images with a unique sense of time. This richly illustrated study distills years of careful, painstaking research in numerous archives and libraries, bringing together far-flung and disparate sources as an orchestral conductor, harmonizing a complex assortment of instruments into a stirring symphony.'

Brian Connaughton - Metropolitan Autonomous University

'Theater of a Thousand Wonders stages more than a few wonders of its own, especially in its deft conjoining of dazzling detail and breath-taking scope. It’s an extraordinary study of colonial sacred spaces and devotional objects by one of our most eminent historians of Latin America religion.'

Thomas A. Tweed - author of Crossing and Dwelling: A Theory of Religion

'A remarkable study to savor, intricately organized and as rich in case evidence as in expansive vision. Taylor's Theater of a Thousand Wonders somehow grounds and humanizes miraculousness while allowing it to soar, joining the particularities of New Spain to an ever-widening Christendom.'

Kenneth Mills - University of Michigan

'… an important statement about the prominence of image cults in early modern Hispanic America.'

Gervase Rosser Source: The English Historical Review

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